Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

The Body and the Ghost of the Real: A Humanistic Alternative to the Computational Mind

John Bienz.

In “The Way We Think,” Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner propose a theory of conceptual blending as a powerful humanistic alternative to the computational theories of the mind/brain that have dominated linguistics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science. The basic model of conceptual blending offered by Fauconnier and Turner applies with equal elegance both to technical and mathematical thinking and also to how people make and understand poetry and the other arts. Unlike computational models of the mind/brain, conceptual blending opens up a way to understand human intelligence that eliminates the barriers that conventionally separate the humanities from the sciences and technology. The basic model, however, is incomplete. It needs a third input to account for emergent meaning: the conceptualizer’s story as it is lived at the moment of conceptualization, the “ghost of the real” that links embodied experience to imaginative thinking. The addition of this input saves Fauconnier and Turner’s model from regression to another version of mind-body dualism.


John Bienz  (United States)
Professor of English
English Department
Mount Union College

John Bienz has taught Renaissance English literature, Shakespeare, literary theory, and related courses at liberal arts colleges in the United States since 1976. He has published on the poetry of George Herbert and presented papers on Herbert, Shakespeare, and Milton.

  • Conceptual blending
  • Computational Mind
  • Imagination
  • Cognitive science
  • Mind-body dualism
  • Poetry
  • Fauconnier and Turner

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)